A small town near my home is named Crozet, VA.  The namesake is Claudius Crozet the famous French railway engineer who built the first tunnel into the Shenandoah valley, finished in 1859.

This is an interesting story of how a locomotive was taken into the valley in 1853 before the tunnel was completed:

https://www.crozetgazette.com/...rse-at-rockfish-gap/

One  puzzle I have not figured out, what is special about the 20 mule team (18 mules and 2 horses) that apparently was perhaps a standard.  We all remember 20 mule team borax but these folks used the same team.  I wonder what that was all about?

By the way, this is the same "rockfish" area that was often referenced in the Waltons.

Hokie 71

Chief of Operations, Free Union, Blacksburg, and Albemarle Railroad (FUBAR)

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20 mule teams were used because of the great strength of the mules and the large loads that were being hauled.  Something a little different about the way these teams were hitched was that rather than the wooden draw poles and eveners we're used to seeing with smaller teams, the mules would be hitched in pairs to a long chain.  The mules had to be taught to "jump the chain" for the purpose of rounding corners.  While the lead teams, some distance from the load being hauled, would begin to round a corner, the mules closer to the load and on the inside of the curve had to jump to the outside of the chain so that even and straight draw was maintained until the load reached the corner.

Another difference was that the driver did not ride the load but rather rode one of the horses at the lead of the team or often worked on foot as the pace was not great.  He would be assisted by a team of outriders or walkers placed at intervals along the team to help direct the movements.  There were persons who rode the load or wagons and their purpose was as brakemen.  One of the interesting comments in the article is that the locomotive had to be drawn downhill.  This is where the brakemen played a vital role as the weight of the load would've quickly overtaken the team and run it over.

People often wonder why farmers bothered to breed mules, an animal that can't reproduce.  Mules inherit the strength of the horse but also the guile and intelligence of the donkey.  The combination makes for an animal that is exceedingly strong and suited its purpose and, perhaps, less prone to the flights of will that might be caused by hormones.

@49lionel: that is an amazing link to the tunnel.  At that length I would prefer my bicycle - I hope they allow them when finished.

@Byrdie: great information, I have a hard time imagining that jump the chain deal when I think of the road in the picture.  Have you run across any more pictorial explanation on that?  as a final mundane question, guys in 1853 in the blue ridge used 20 mule trains, and then in 1883-89 in death valley the same size team. what gives?  Was this the Schnabel car of the 19th century?  

 

Hokie 71

Chief of Operations, Free Union, Blacksburg, and Albemarle Railroad (FUBAR)

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This video link will take you to a demonstration of borax wagons that were restored at Engels Coach Shop in Wyoming for a museum in New Mexico.  There are a couple spots where they demonstrate the hitch turning a corner.  About the 4 minute mark you can clearly see where the teams nearest the wagons are on the outside of the chain.  If you watch closely throughout the video there are points at which mules can be seen jumping the chain.  There's one mule in particular that likes to pull on the off side and jumps the chain even when not asked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_Thvbp0rPo

Hope the link works.  Otherwise just search YouTube for "20 mule team jumping the chain."  i didn't finish typing it before it came up as a suggested topic.

I do subscribe to Engel's channel.  He does some amazing work in a mix of traditional and modern methods.

Byrdye and Hokie71 -- Thank you very much for the fascinating information on the 20 mule team.  Very interesting.  I also wonder about how the 20 mule team size was figured out.  I assume that it was trial and error, and a team of 20 mules was the maximum that could be handled and cared for, for the length of the trip.  People were really smart back in the day about these things.

Byrdie, You are correct on the B&O, I assumed (and you know what that makes -***-U-ME, not you of course) that was why they were hauling this thing over the mountain.  But this roughly  1840 map of the B&O shows it coming down the valley through Staunton.   Apparently the Blue Ridge Railroad had the charter to go west from Richmond as the  Crozet gazette article describes.  That was that and no connection with the B&O was yet authorized.  Hence, haul the loco over the mountain.  Thanks for the you tube links too.  Remarkable as Pferrdy says.

 

Hokie 71

Chief of Operations, Free Union, Blacksburg, and Albemarle Railroad (FUBAR)

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During that time HOKIE 71 railroads were putting out maps based on anticipated routes and connections, and that is what I think your map is.  The Winchester & Potomac was constructed from a connection with the B&O and the C&O Canal at Harpers Ferry to Winchester in the 1830s.  No further construction was done southwards (up) the Shenandoah Valley by B&O related companies until after the Civil War.  Ultimately the B&O line reached Lexington in 1883 when it stalled out, well short of Salem.  You may have seen the remnants of that line from Interstate 81 in your Virginia Tech days.

The Blue Ridge Railway was a state funded extension of the Virginia Central which looped north from Richmond before heading west to Gordonsville and Charlottesville before heading to Afton Gap.  The line, what later became the original C&O main line, ran north of the line on your map from Richmond, which I think actually depicts the James and Kanawah Canal route that was converted to rail as the Richmond & Allegheny in the 1880s and is now CSX's James River Line. 

Thanks Bill, 

Very interesting.  I think I have noticed from I-81, a very well made stone bridge over a creek. Quite sure it is before Lexington as I head to Blacksburg.   It is too narrow for something related to the history of Rt.11, must be what you mention.  I have wondered about it for a few (many?) years.  I plan to go to the VMT in Roanoke on Thursday and will see if it is possible to take a picture of it without endangering life and limb.

Hokie 71

Chief of Operations, Free Union, Blacksburg, and Albemarle Railroad (FUBAR)

Hokie71, thank you for the topic!  I am familiar with Rockfish Gap.  That is neat they used 20 mule team to move the locomotive!  Wow!  I think I know the bridge you mentioned on the way to Lexington.  I passed it a number of times in the past, though it has been over 20 years since I rode that way.  Byrdie, thank you for the information on the 20-mule team.  The video was great!  I can still hear the Death Valley Days theme in my head as I watched the video.  

That stone bridge visible from 81 south of Staunton was built for the Valley Railroad, which was built southward and aimed to connect with Salem (then bigger than Big Lick, which turned into Roanoke).  It ran out of money and rails were never laid south of Lexington.  The portion of the line from Lexington to Staunton was torn up late in the 19th century, and north of Staunton it became part of the Chesapeake Western.  The competing Shenandoah Valley Railroad, which traversed the Valley to the east, fared better and is today's NS Valley line.

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